Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Day In Shoal Bay.

Hi there,

Last Tuesday Jim and I went fishing to Shoal Bay.
We left at gentlemen hour, after he dropped his beloved at work, and picked me up at my place.
Yes some people have to work during the week while other are going fishing, and usually I am the one at work.
But having the day off, I tagged along, for a very pleasant day.

We launched at Buffalo Creek, where we quickly saw our first croc of the day.

Crocodile and fishermen.

This was not a prehistoric monster, yet it was still a crocodile, and I prefer to try to keep an eye on them. Specially when they are that close from the boat ramp.
From there we made our way to Shoal Bay, with the intention of flicking our lures to every snag that we would find.
Upon arrival, I was surprise to see the water being so clear, a rare sight around Darwin. We could see every under water snag, and even the bottom. This prompted me to use a Reidy's Junior B52, as they have a slow rising action that I really wanted to be able to see and measure, if I may say.
First cast was interesting, and i did a second one a bit longer.
Twitch twitch the lure goes down, pause, it rises at a very slow pace, nearly resting in position.
This was beautiful, and a good way of understanding how this lure is swimming.
Twitch twitch again, pause, twitch twitch and pause, I was thinking that I like the action of this lure, as it was slightly rising in the water column. When a little Barramundi materialised itself just under my lure, swimming straight for it. Twich the lure, pause, and Wham! The Barramundi turn in front of the lure, boofed it and turn away from me to swim back in its deep lair. Except that it didn't went very far before realising that it was hooked and made a bee line for the surface, where it erupted like a little rocket.
Jim had just told me that the last time that he was in this spot every Barra were giving some great aerial show, this one didn't disappoint. 
It went a bit all around the boat, before finding the entrance of the net, that Jim had placed on his way, and yes! We had a Barramundi on board, in a record short time.

First Barramundi of the day.

At 64 cm (25.19685 inches), it was not very large, but a fish is a fish, and most certainly when it is a Barramundi! I was happy, I had a fish to bring back home, good food for the family.
I told you that it came full frontal of the lure before boofing it, here is the result of it:

Lure head down in the Barramundi mouth.

We knew then that we were on the right spot, as soon after that, Jim was on a fish too, which had also taken his lure head first:

Lure in Barramundi mouth.

Jim first Barramundi for the day.

Yes, this was going to be a good day.
It was then a matter of minutes, before Jim was on again, and this time it was some kind of Trevally:

Jim and the Trev.

Not really one of these monsters that you chase on big popper… In fact I was wondering why it even attacked the lure? Greed or competition I guess…
We continued to drift aided by the electric motor, and to cast  to the mangrove lined bank when Jim got another one! And this time he was back on target with a Barramundi:

Jim's second Barramundi of the trip.

This was getting fun.
We could see when the fish were going to grab our lures.
I then decided to try a Ceto Tackle lure in a colour that I hadn't try yet, and loved the way it cast. Like a bullet.
I got a little cod on it:

Rock Cod on a Ceto Tackle lure.

The action of this lure is the opposite of the lure that I was using previously. It rise on retrieve, and dive on the pause. So a bit dangerous in very snaggy country, so I didn't use too long as I didn't want to loose it. I went back to the little one that had got me a Barramundi earlier.
And we decided to cross the bay to try another creek, the water was flat like a glass.

Crossing a flat Shoal Bay.

As we arrived to our new destination, we saw a baby crocodile, who must have been waiting for us:

Baby Crocodile in the mangroves.

By then the water had risen considerably, for a neap tide, and was now well and truly in the mangrove. I thought that I needed to fish deeper to get a fish in these condition. To remedy I put a weedless soft plastic on, and started to let it drop as deep as it would go. but with no success. So I made a long cast, deep in the timber, and joked that it would be hairy to catch a Barramundi over all this wood… Shouldn't have joked about it, it happened…
The fish took my line between the branches, I could see the line rubbing along the dead wood, and the fish jumping on the other side of it. I might have been a bit excited back then as to me, it was a sure thing that I was going to loose this one. Jim manoeuvred his boat to get as close as possible from the branches and trunks that were between us and this feisty little Barra. He even found a direct line, without any obstacle to cut my line. Reeling like a maniac, I was able to get it through, and near the boat. Jim did his thing with the net, and Voilas! My second Barramundi was on the deck:

A sweet little Barramundi.

This one had given me some serious fishing adrenaline, and in the water it went back.
Not to be outdone, Jim caught a bigger one just after that.
Not even letting me the time to savour my little victory.

Another Barra for Jim.

This one was rather nice, and Jim kept it, in the esky it went.
He didn't wast too much time to get another one, but a little bit smaller…

Baby Barramundi on Rapala.

Then Jim got two hit on the same retrieve, enough to get us excited.
Immediately I cast my lure in the vicinity of his cast and yes, I can see some fish following my lure, but turning back at the last second. They are fast and long, Queenfish maybe? We are not sure but want to catch one of them. We both cast our lures again, and I am on! 
The fish is rapid and goes from right to left in no times. Going deep, and then on the top, then down again. What is it?
Well, it wasn't a queenfish, and I am sure that for the ones among you who have fished these waters before, you might be starting to get an idea… 
It is long, fast, go in every direction possible, and is grey looking…
Yes, I had at the end of my line a little shark!
Lucky me, it was rather small:

A little shark, taken on a lure.

They are very good food, and I sometimes keep one. But as I already had a Barramundi in the esky, this one went back swimming to tell the tale to his mates.
This is about when we saw the storm, lighting an all, coming our way:

Storm on the way.

Now, from what I heard, storm on Shoal Bay, can be a bit rocky. So we started to make our way back, just in case. With the goal of fishing closer to home, so we could make a quick escape if things turned a bit sour, weather wise.
Closer we went, and started fishing again.
And Jim got the fish of the day!

Monster Barramundi.

Yes, it did attack a lure…
Greedy little thing.

Then he got a cod, and watching the rain falling around us we decided to go home.

Rain on the bay.

All in all it was a great day. We had started not too early, and went back home not too late.
Life was smiling on us.
Thanks again Jim, for a great day on the water.

So we didn't catch any super sized Barra…

But hey, it could be worse.
Have a good day,
Me.

Monday, April 7, 2014

2014 Top End Barra Series Round 2.

Hi there,

Not long ago, the second round of the 2014 Top End Barra Series took place, on the upper side of the Adelaide River.
A river reputed for its hard fishing, so much in fact that many of the competitors in the TEBS, had never fished it. As many of the fisher folks of Darwin and surrounding, who prefer other rivers or regional estuaries, who offer much more reliable Barramundi fishing.
But that is where it was, and that is where we went.
With the advantage, of being relatively close to Darwin, we had a late start, and Brett who had invited me on his boat, thanks again, picked me up at around 6:20am, much later than the usual.
Also, we had some "inside intelligence" coming from my friend Jason, who had very kindly sent us the marks to his best spot on the river, when to fish them and with which lures. Thanks Jason.

We arrived at the boat ramp, to find the parking full of trailer, obviously, some people had taken the matter more seriously than us and were already on the water.
So we launched without any delay and started to make our way up, trying to find our first fish, here and there. Without much success I must confess.
Still, the weather was looking good and we were still full of hope. When a dragon fly came to rest on the tip of my fishing rod, I of course interpreted that as a good omen.

The fisherman's good omen.

Yet, we couldn't raise a scale, and the nice weather was starting to get rather hot.
To compensate we decided that a pizza would do us all the good we needed, and started to warm a delicious Moroccan pizza on the BBQ:

Moroccan pizza warming up.

We went under the shade of a tree, to eat it, and Seano with Kieran stopped to have a chat with us.

Mates under the sun, watching us eating in the shade.

We did ask them if they wanted us to warm or cook anything for them, as the BBQ was still hot.
But they already had had enough of fishing this hard river, and were on their way to another creek somewhere. Having decided to forfeit this round. It was not even midday yet, and some of the participant in the competition had by then decided to call it quite. Yes it is a hard river to fish, which has broken more than one angler.
The pizza had hit the spot nicely, and left a little taste of "I want more" in our stomachs, so the garlic bread went straight were the pizza had been. Slowly warming up, as we restarted our way up the river, in search of good fishing.

Just past Goat Island, we found a few other boats, and started a nice raft-up.
It was around midday and not the best time to fish, so every body was happy to have a bit of a laugh, a few drinks and some of the garlic bread that we shared with other boats.
Glenn, one of the organiser of the Top End Barra Series (or TEBS as it is now known by many) even joined the raft-up for a little while. At that time I did prefer to be me than him, as a few people asked him why on hearth they had chosen to do a round, in this place, at this time of the year…
But it was more a friendly banter with a strong camaraderie undertone than anything else, as most were still having a very good time. This is what makes this competition so pleasant, the social aspect of it. Which is often more important that the competitive side of it.
Toward the end of the midday raft-up a boat went toward the front of it, and gave a nice refreshment to the occupant of the first few boats:

Shower on the river.

From there, we headed back down to Marrakai Creek.
On which we saw Paul and his mate trolling, obviously, once again we were not the only one to have an idea as to where to find a fish or two. And yes we finally found a fish! Or should I say, Brett got a fish. It wasn't a big one, it was in fact a rather small one, we could even have called it a rat. But it was the first Barramundi of the weekend and it lifted our spirit.

First Barramundi of the weekend.

This little fish in a very beautiful location was just was we needed to regain a bit of confidence.

The Marrakai.

But no matters how beautiful the place was, one little rat of a fish, is not enough, and we wanted more.
Brett then made the decision to go back up in a little creek in which he had found success in the past.
At the mouth of the creek, we once again found some Top End Barra Series competitors, casting their lures in hope of a fish.
We passed them, and went up the creek, to find a little junction with an even smaller creek.
We positioned the boat a few meters upward this nice little intersection, and this is when the fun started to kick in.
Just there one more time, Brett gave me a great demonstration of technique.
in about two hours, he caught over eleven fish. I say eleven, because that is the number that I photographed, but he had many other that I did not photograph.

Barramundi on a Reidy's B52.

As you can see, we were very happy with the Barra starting to come overboard.

Another Barramundi on the B52.

The fish were no monster, but they were numerous, and we started to hop that we would find a few point scorer among them.

Brett with another Barramundi caught on the B52.

I was catching nothing, and Brett was getting them all, on a Reidy's B52.
It was for me, about time that I start to do something about it. So I finally put a B52 at the end of my line, and … Yes A Barramundi boofed my lure, as it was just resting on the surface. It mad me jump, but it didn't stay connected. 
Brett caught a few more..
Then just at the boat, another Barra hit my lure, we saw it, and I lost it…
What was going on. Brett was starting to have a few friendly teasing words in regards to my absolute inability to catch a fish. While still giving me some advice on what I was doing right, and wrong in my retrieve for this type of fishing, in this season.
I tried to listen, and to put in application the method he described to me.
And I was finally hooked on a Barramundi!

My first Barramundi of the weekend.

Now I was happy, we both had point scorer Barramundi, no doughnut on this boat!
Brett caught a few more, and me not. 

Brett with yet another Barramundi.

The tide was falling fast, and we would have to think about getting out of there before we would get stuck. My B52 kept scraping the bottom of the creek, so I put the same soft plastic that got me my first metery in the previous round of the 2014 Top End Barra Series. Brett said, I bet that you will make two cast with that and get a fish on the second one.
Well, the first cast came back empty handed. And about half way through the second one, my line went tense and a nice feisty little Barra erupted out of the water: I was on! On the second cast, like Brett had predicted.

my second Barramundi of the weekend.

All these fish, despite being rather smallish, were fighting well above their weight and length.
It was surprising how they could pull line in comparison of their size.
We did lost a lot of them.

But it was starting to get late, and we really didn't want to get stuck in the creek for the night.
So we headed back at the mouth, where our friendly competitors were still there casting.
It didn't took us too long to anchor the boat not very far from the mouth, and to start getting ready for dinner. While the dinner was cooking, we kept ourselves busy, casting fizzer in the dark.
Now, this is something that I wanted since a long time: a Barramundi, on a fizzer at night.
And it happened!

First Barramundi on a fizzer at night.

Once again, not a giant, but still good enough to get a few points.
More importantly, I had just caught my first Barramundi at night on a fizzer.
This year in only two rounds, the TEBS has already spoilt me: my first metery (at 102 cm) in the first round. And now my first night time Barra on a fizzer. Yes I am very happy and lucky this year.

The nice aroma coming from the BBQ, let us know that dinner was cooked: Roast Pork!
I don't know for you, but for me, roast pork on the boat after a day of fishing… That is living in luxury mode.

Pork roast on the BBQ, on the boat.

The nice hot roast, with cold beverage, and an electric storm in the distance, was a perfect end to a great day. Filled by fun, friendship and a few Barramundi.

Electric storm on the Adelaide river, at night.

This was a great show, and sleep was easy to find after that.
For the following day we had a great plan…
We would wake up early, and go back where we had done so well in the evening, and restart to catch plenty of fish. This was going to be a glorious fishing day!
Well, we did get up early.

Fishing the Adelaide river in the morning.

But that about it for the glorious fish capture…
We didn't catch a single fish on the second day.
I did miss two of them. One being a rather big one, that went for my fizzer, but didn't hook.
Brett kept telling me to be more patient when using a fizzer. To wait for the line to strip from the reel before doing anything. But I will need a lot of practice for that. Because as soon that I see a fish boofing my lure, I hook as hard as I can. Which usually as the simply disastrous effect of ripping my fizzer out of the fish mouth before it is even remotely hooked…
Yes, I need to work on my self-control.

After a few hours, of sweating and not a single hit on any of our lures, we decided to call it a day, and to head back home.

The Adelaide River.

The Adelaide River upheld her reputation of being a very difficult river to fish.
It has broken the spirit of more than one fisherman, but for my point of view, I still had a great weekend. We had caught a few fish, and many laugh, I was happy.
Thanks again to Brett for inviting me on his boat for the weekend.

How did I scored?
Well I came on at the eleventh position, out of nearly one hundred people fishing.
This won me a $50 voucher to be used at the Roma Bar. As it is a place that my dear lady likes, I think that one day, her, the little one and I could go there one afternoon, and have some fruit juice. So very happy with that.
And Brett?
Well he won the mystery size and got a $100 DUO lures pack.
So we both scored good.

The only problem now?
Well it will be a few months before the next round of the Top End Barra Series, way too long.

But hey, it could be worse.
Have a good day,
Me.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

2014 Top End Barra Series Round 1.

Hi there,

Yes the Top End Barra Series restarted, and this year for me, it began with a bang!
This is not only the story of the first round of the 2014 Top End Barra Series, this is also the story of how I caught my first ever Barramundi over a meter in length.

The first round took place at Shady Camp, a place well known for its big Barramundi and big crocodile. I hadn't been there since last year opening round of the Series and I was hopping to do better this year.
I was teamed with my friend Brett, a very good fisherman and skipper.
A few days before we left for the competition, he told me that I might beat my personal best Barramundi in this coming round. I was dreaming of it, but was also trying to keep my hope low, just in case it didn't turn out as expected.
Well it did turn out rather good, but lets start at the beginning.

Brett, picked me up at 5:30 am and we drove to Shady Camp, telling fishing tales, and full of expectation.
At around 8:00 am we launched and  helped a guy to jump start his boat. His battery was flat and he was drifting in the current. First rescue mission of the weekend. Then we quickly made our way to the mouth of Sampan and started to troll, with all the other boats. Of which we counted 46, and didn't saw many fishes being caught.
So at about 10:00 am, we decided to start cooking some chicken wings on the BBQ and to start heading towards Swim Creek, in the hope of more success. We went there, with a boat full of Brett mates following us and exchanging friendly banters.

On the way to Swim Creek.

I wasn't used to have a BBQ on the floor of a boat that I am standing on, and at first it is a bit of a strange thing to look at.
But when you start to taste at the goodies coming from it, there is nothing unnatural in the flames on the floor of the boat:

BBQ on the floor.

Time for a snack.

As we arrived at Swim Creek, the creek was full of boats on both side, and there was no way that we could get in. We had waited too long to get there, and we would have to settle at the mouth, and to try to cast into it.
Standing there, casting a hard body lure in the creek mouth and looking at all the boats inside of it, casting lure in each other direction. I started to wonder how any Barramundi could ever try to pass this barrage of fishing lures and stand any chance to get to the top of the creek. I also was looking at the submerged trees and all the timber along there… 
I decided to change my lure to a weedless soft plastic, that I would be able to cast straight, deep in the timber, where I though that baits might be hiding. Looking in my bag, the biggest weedless lure that I had, was a four inches flick bait… Not exactly the big lure for big fish that I was expecting to find. But that was the biggest one, so I tied one on, and started to cast it strait in the flooded branches, hoping for a medium to good size fish. All it took was maybe a dozen casts when I saw a fish roll near my line,  which immediately went tense and started to fly from my little reel.
I shouted that I was on, as I was rather surprised by the violence of the hit, and the speed at which my reel was loosing line. Brett was quick thinking and pulled the anchor and started to follow the fish a bit. Lucky for me, she went for the left and then straight for the sea side, instead of trying to bury me in submerged logs. But I thought that I was going to be spooled and said (maybe screamed) it to Brett, who took a look at my reel and said: Relax you still have plenty of line in there, all the while he was following the fish. Then I started to believe that she had snagged me, as I could not reel her in anymore. In fact, she was just a strong fish, and the drag on my reel could have been a bit tighter. 
So with the boat nearly above her, she finally came to the surface and Brett said that it could be a 99cm fish! I started to get even more excited, thinking that it would beat my best of 91cm so far. But she didn't like the look of us both screaming and looking at her like that, and went around the boat, then back towards us and around again, to finally come back to our side. We saw her a few more time, and I started to think that she was the heaviest Barra I had ever hooked and really wanted her in the net. And in the net, Brett scooped her.
In the boat we saw that she was properly hooked on the left side of her mouth, and we quickly put her on the brag mat. She was first declared to be 101 cm, and my joy just exploded.
I had finally cracked the meter mark.
This was definitively my biggest Barramundi to date.
It is only later on while looking at the photo that I realised that she was 102 cm (40.15748 inches).
And here she is:

102 cm of salt water Barramundi.

To me, this was 102 cm of pure angling pleasure, a dream finally come true.
I didn't get a photo of myself holding her, that would have been nice, but the pleasure of having her is even better.
She was revived and released, to continue to grow, to breed and produce many little Barramundi for the future.

Some people have said that after the capture and release of this very nice Barramundi, they saw me shout and dance on the boat. Well to be honest, I would love to say that this is pure exaggeration and that I kept my cool and was just happily smiling around… But that might not really be the truth, I was really excited, and started to walk on air for the rest of the day, if not the week.

We did try a bit longer at the same spot, for not a single hit. So we decided to move back in Sampan Creek, to tie the boat under the shade of a few mangrove trees, and start to cook some marinated ribs, calling for a raft up on the radio.

BBQed ribs on the boat.

The ribs were delicious, and two or three boats joined us for a bit of light banter.
I was just thinking about the nice fish I had just caught, and don't remember much of what was said.
But I do remember that across the creek last year Top End Barra Series winner was looking to be in trouble, with his boat slowly sinking in the crocodile infested waters of the muddy creek.
Brett knew what the trouble was, and we scouted towards then and yes it was a bilge pump problem, which was quickly fixed.

The boat with the bilge pump problem being fixed.

Once the rescue mission was accomplished we went back under our trees, and continued chatting with other members of the TEBS.
By the end of the afternoon, we went for some more trolling at the mouth of Sampan.
Looking at the storms rolling all around us.

Storm over the mouth of Sampan Creek.

We didn't got much success I should say, as all we got for our effort was a small Blue Salmon.

Small Blue Salmon on Reidy's Big B52's.

So we decided to call it a day, and to organise a mini raft up, which at one stage was made of 5 boats tied together. Ready to eat and laugh the night away.
This time it was lamb shanks on the BBQ, very nice! We even warmed some mini pizza for Seano and Aaron at the same time:

Yummy food cooking on the boat.

This might be the first time that I did put some weight on a fishing trip.
Food was first class, no doubts about that.

In the middle of the night at around 2:00am, as everyone was deep asleep, a boat passed us full throttle, with absolute disregards for safety and all. The wake of the boat pulled the anchors of the raft up and luckily I realised that we were drifting. In fact I did ask Brett if we were drifting or not, to which he replied that I was right. A few quick shoot and every body was fully awake and trying to find our bearings in the black night. We split up the raft up and went to a quieter spot on the river, with a few boat coming with us. We anchored and went back to sleep, but I kept waking up and checking if we were drifting again. Which we didn't, but between the lighting and the air suddenly becoming real cold, I thought that we were going to be on the receiving end of a good storm. But once again it turned all around and avoided us as best as it could. We stayed dry all night long.

In the morning, we spotted a boat high and dry on the bank, that had anchored too close to the rivage. Its occupant would have had to wait for high tide to float again.

High and dry in the morning light.

We decided to start the day trolling the mouth of Sampan again, in the hope of snaring a big Barramundi. I did got a fish, it was a 64cm Barra:

First Barramundi of the Sunday.

It was no monster, yet I was very happy, as it would give me a few points on the scoreboard.
With nothing much happening we decided to go back in direction of the ramp, to fish a few spot on the way, and maybe the barrage. And mostly to have an early retrieve before the ramp become overcrowded. We tried a few spot that had worked well for Brett in the past, but with no luck. We could hear and see the Barramundi boofing around us, but could not entice a strike on our lures. What ever lure we would try on. 

We saw a lot of crocodile, as it is expected in Sampan creek.

Salt water crocodile in the mud of Sampan creek.

Not getting any fish and with the temperature rising up, we decided to head to the barrage for a last chance at getting any fishes.
At about one kilometre from the barrage, Brett turned the boat around and said to me: "Look at this creek mouth all the birds in there. If there is birds, there is bait, and if there is bait, there is Barramundi".
And he was dead right.
He quickly got his first fish of the weekend, and that was good to see.

Brett's first Barramundi of the weekend.

And from there on, having shaken the monkey of his back, Brett blitzed from zero to six fish in less that two hours.
The bait was very small, but we could see them swimming on the surface and being harassed by the Barramundi.
Using the smallest lures that we had, it become real good fun to see Brett catching them one after the other.

Another Barramundi for Brett.

And another one.

And again.

All on the same little lure.

The lure was a green four inches soft plastic from Reidy's and was definitively the outstanding lure of the weekend.

Brett then asked me why I hadn't caught anything while he was just reeling them in. Just as he finished asking it, I said I am on!
And in came my third and last Barramundi of the weekend.

My last Barramundi of the weekend.

At 70cm (27.55 inches) in was a good size fish, without being a back breaker. I was very happy to land it.

Then Brett got another Barra in the boat, and we decided that it was enough and to go home.
Brett had the five fish for a full bag, and I had a 102cm one that was my new personal best, and made me more that happy.

At the barrage we got the boat on the trailer and left before it become a big traffic jam.

People fishing the Shady Camp barrage.

On the way back we found three Jackaroo who had problems with there truck, and we gave them a lift. That was the third rescue mission of the weekend.

So where do I stand in the comp after this great fish caught in the first round?
Well, I ended up in fifth place, to me this is pretty good, out of just over one hundred anglers.
I won a new head lamp and an esky for my effort. Very happy with that.
Brett was also in the top half of the competitor.

Just a few stats collated by the organiser of the Top End Barra Series about the round one:

Out of 105 competitor, 82 caught at least one Barramundi.
These 105 competitor caught a total of 276 Barramundi over the weekend.
Of these 276 Barramundi, only 2 went over the magic meter mark.

So yes, to me it was a great weekend on all front, thanks again Brett for inviting me on your boat for the weekend.
A new personal best, and my first ever Barramundi over a meter long. Great food and great camaraderie on the water. What else can one want?
Well I can tell you, now I wish for another Barramundi over a meter long…

But hey, it could be worse.
Have a good day,
Me.